Relationship Dynamics

Since coming to Adrian Christian Church I have struggled to remember people’s names. I work hard to make connections and remember people clearly. I admit I have been using the pictorial directory as a “cheat sheet” to help me. It is still hard to know everyone.

This effort has led me into many conversations with people about the dynamics of human relationships. To me this is an important piece of information that people in Churches (or any organization) need to know and understand.

All of us have limits to the amount of people we can know and have relationships with. A man named Robin Dunbar did a study that is now referred to as “Dunbar’s number.” He stated that the maximum limit of relationships a person can have is 150. Others have argued with his numbers and said we can actual have a relationship with 230, 250 or 290 people. Dunbar stated that after 150 we might know someone’s name but we do not have an active relationships with those people.

Inside of that 150, I usually break down that group into levels of relationships. I have broken it down this way: we each have 3 really deep relationships, 12 strong relationships, 72 surface relationships and the rest we know their name and one or two minor aspects of their life. I have derived these numbers from the life of Jesus and the relationships he maintained. He had his “inner circle” of Peter, James and John. They were part of the larger group of 12 disciples. Jesus sent out the 72 (or possibly 70) with those 12 included. Finally, after his resurrection the larger group of 120 people stayed true to Jesus while waiting for the Holy Spirit.

I read an article that broke it down very similarly that made sense to me. The article stated that we have 5 people we contact daily, 15 people we contact weekly, 50 people we contact monthly, and 150 people we contact annually.

Why is all of this important?

Because – no matter what the size of a Church’s attendance, those numbers remain the same. It doesn’t matter if you attend a Church with 150 people on Sunday morning or 1500 people you still have the same number of relationships. It doesn’t matter if your Church has one Sunday morning program or five of them. Your relationship number is the same.

When people say, “we no longer know everybody” they are always referring to the group above 12 or 15. They no longer know the names of people they come in contact with and it is frustrating.

Let me be clear – the goal of a Church has never been for us to know everyone otherwise the Church was in trouble at the start with 3,000 people coming to accept Jesus as their Savior in Acts 2. I believe the personal goal for a church member is to make sure that each person is developing the deep relationships and the strong relationships they need.

So instead of trying to know everyone, open up your life to a few. It will be far more fulfilling than knowing people’s names. Trust me on this one.

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